Omnichannel Marketing Innovation: American Eagle Outfitters

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Marketers for clothing retailer American Eagle Outfitters recognize that shoppers today are multidimensional, transient, and always-on.

“We know that customers are increasingly pre-shopping online prior to coming into our stores.  Over the past few years our teams have worked hard to build digital and mobile capabilities to meet our customers' expectations,” says Michael Rempell, EVP and COO at American Eagle Outfitters (AEO).  He says the team at AEO understands that shopping experiences today start in consumers' hands—through mobile, on the Web with their devices, in emails, and through SMS notifications. Marketers need technology to make the ominichannel experience a reality for their customers. “Technology enables the entire process, from campaign promotion to the dynamic transactional messages,” Rempell says.

AEO wanted to use consumers' everyday digital experiences to drive in-store traffic and purchases. That's why last spring AEO developed a program called Reserve, Try, and Buy. The idea behind the program is to give customers the flexibility to shop exactly how, when, and where they want to. AEO, however, needed technology to enable that ideal experience—one where the brand meets shoppers anyplace, not just in-stores. “American Eagle Outfitters has made tremendous strides to provide our customers with a brand experience that flows seamlessly between digital and in-store,” Rempell says. “Omnichannel represents the future of the brand and future of the retail industry for that matter.”

One example of AEO's approach: Customer reserve merchandise through a mobile app or on AEO's website. The store nearest each of those customers receives an alert AEO of the shoppers' requests, at which time store employees confirm that the items are in stock. If so, using tools from Experian Marketing Suite the retailer sends the customers a series of real-time email and text messages to confirm their orders. Those messages include the local store's hours and location. Store employees set aside the items; shoppers can hold as many as five items in the store that will remain there until the customers come to the store and buy them—up until the close of the next business day.

“Omnichannel customers are often a brand's most valuable customers because they engage more with the brand, and they purchase more frequently from that brand,” says Yara Lutz, VP of client services for Experian Marketing Services. “We found that mobile transaction rates were more than 10 times higher than those for email campaigns.”

Marketers at AEO tested the program in 13 cities and launched the full program last July. “Consumers expect cross-channel—and cross-channel is a seamless experience,” Lutz says. “This is a difficult expectation for brands to meet, but it becomes feasible if you can sift through the noise and link data across channels.”

AEO's Rempell says that although technology was the cornerstone of the program, data was the backbone. Message preference data and inventory data dictated the contents and cadence of each triggered email.

AEO used tools in the Experian Marketing Suite to measure the success of the program, as well. “One of the exciting outcomes we've seen since launching the Reserve, Try, and Buy program is that customers are making additional purchases once they're in our stores,” Rempell says. Customers reserve an average of one to two items with the Reserve, Try and Buy program. But in when they arrive in the store, customers ended up buy more than three items on average.

“We understand that our multichannel customers spend more than double the amount of single-channel shoppers,” Rempell says. “This program promotes that multichannel behavior, which increasingly converts more customers into multichannel shoppers for the brand.”

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